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Waxahatchee and Swearin' – Sound Control, Manchester 25/10/13

29 October 2013, 12:55 | Written by Joe Goggins

Tonight’s double bill at Sound Control would seem like a fairly incongruous one, if it weren’t for the fact that the respective singers for Waxahatchee and Swearin’ look – and, indeed to some extent, sound – identical to each other, on account of being twin sisters. Katie and Allison Crutchfield are currently treading markedly different sonic paths, but there’s subtle similarities – a raw emotional core, for one – that means their bands prove surprisingly complementary in a live setting.

Allison is up first with Swearin’, the designated openers on this European jaunt; if anything, they’re the more relevant of the two at this particular point in time, with their sophomore LP, Surfing Strange, due out next week. Tonight’s set is understandably heavy on the new release, with recent number “Dust in the Gold Sack” proving a fitting opening to proceedings; it serves nicely as a microcosm of the Swearin’ sound, with Crutchfield’s chirpy delivery battling a racing rhythm section and noisy riffs for prominence.

The more restrained cuts from both their recent album and their debut are understandably left by the wayside, meaning that there is little to temper the set’s blistering pace. Guitarist Kyle Gilbride takes on a hefty share of the vocal duties himself; his bratty tones fit the band’s punky instrumentation neatly. It’s all a little rough around the edges, sure, but so it should be; the sheer energy that Swearin’ bring to their live performances is a major factor in setting them apart from the crowd as far as nineties revivalists are concerned.

The crowd’s swollen a little by the time Waxahatchee arrive to headline, although the room is by no means at capacity; from the audience’s perspective, it’s really no bad thing, with a sense of intimacy being key to Crutchfield number two’s stage presence. Opening with the yearning “Bathtub” from last year’s debut full-length, American Weekend, there’s a little bit of work to do in terms of engaging a crowd still coming down from a searing Swearin’ set.

It’s already fairly well-documented that Crutchfield wears one particular influence quite literally on her sleeve; the cover art for Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things is tattooed on her right arm, although it’s not really all that difficult to spot Jenny Lewis’ lyrical influence; Crutchfield’s style, like Lewis’, is largely confessional, and flecked with wit and metaphor. Her approach to the live representations of her songs, too, seems lifted from that same band’s penchant for keeping things a little rawer on stage; the likes of “Peace and Quiet” and “Coast to Coast” – both plucked from March’s Cerulean Salt – are a tad rockier than their studio counterparts, providing some nice punctuation to an otherwise understated set.

Waxahatchee certainly don’t grab you by the throat in quite the same way the sheer brashness of Swearin’ might, but they’re every bit as captivating; Crutchfield’s emotive delivery is full of conviction, to the extent that it borders on the soulful. A swift acoustic encore of “I Think I Love You” is a fitting way to close out an evening that confirms the Crutchfield sisters as two of this year’s most exciting young voices; they might not have too much in common stylistically, but they do share a refreshing sincerity that promises big things for the future.

Photograph taken by Howard Melnyczuk at The Scala in London. See full gallery here.

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